We all know that heavy drinking is a wrecking ball to good health. But what about those who hoist a beer or glass of wine socially or sip a nightcap after a stressful day at work? Is that wrecking ball swinging toward these moderate drinkers?
A study out of Hong Kong indicates that light drinking might take a mental health toll.
Their findings show that moderate drinkers who quit the habit, especially women, can improve their mental health to the point where it’s comparable to those who have never touched the stuff.
Writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers suggest caution in physicians recommending moderate drinking as part of any diet.
How do you define a moderate drinker? For men, it’s considered 14 drinks or fewer per week, or 196 grams of alcohol. For women, it’s seven drinks, or 98 grams of alcohol. If you’re a beer drinker, a regular 12-ounce can of suds at 5% alcohol is considered one drink, as is a 5-ounce, 12% glass of wine.
Scientists collected data from more than 10,000 participants who were a mix of lifelong abstainers and moderate drinkers. The mean age of the group was 49 years. The participants were quizzed about their mental well-being in a period extending from 2009 to 2013. They then compared that information to a second, larger group of 31,000 people.
Who had the best mental well-being? Those who had never touched alcohol. But people who quit drinking, especially women, experienced a significant boost in mental health.
Investigators say the ideal amount of alcohol to keep mental health on an even keel is what you find in an empty wine glass: zero.